For Vasquez, another frustrating night
Senior guard Greivis Vasquez leaned over in his seat on the Maryland bench Sunday night, his elbows pinned to his thighs and his thumbs pressed against his forehead. He closed his eyes and took in deep breaths. A few moments earlier, Vasquez had committed his fifth foul, forcing him to leave the matchup against No. 3 Villanova prematurely.
Vasquez's sideline demeanor with less than two minutes remaining in the game was all anyone needed to witness to determine how the player's night went. He shot 3 for 9 -- including 1 for 4 from three-point range -- and tallied 12 points. His seven assists were matched by his seven turnovers. Vasquez also recorded three rebounds and two steals.
Were he any other ACC starting guard, his overall performance Sunday night wouldn't warrant much attention. It would stand as a mediocre outing -- nothing more; nothing less. But because of Vasquez's track record, as well as his outsize personality, his showing against Villanova, especially when examined with the rest of his performances this season, creates more than a tinge of concern.
Vasquez, a two-time all-ACC second-team honoree who led the Terrapins in points, rebounds and assists last season, is averaging 12.8 points per game (fourth on the team), 4.1 rebounds per game (fifth) and 5.9 assists per game (first). He is shooting 32.3 percent from the field and 28.1 percent from three-point range. He is averaging 3.8 turnovers per game, and his assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.6. To round things out, he is tied for the team lead in steals (14).
What do all those numbers mean? Well, many things. They indicate a player struggling to find his own offensive rhythm, but not at the complete expense of his team's offensive flow. They indicate a player limited by his burning desire to improve. They indicate flaws that always have been present, as well as new ones born out of his current woes.
Vasquez has appeared out of sync for much of this young season; maybe that's what his stats most clearly reveal.
Here are two things to consider:
1) Vasquez considers himself a point guard. He always has, and at least for now, that's the position he envisions himself playing as a professional. But in Maryland's offense, three players take turns running the point (Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Adrian Bowie), and last season, Vasquez garnered extra opportunities for himself to orchestrate the team's attack by grabbing rebounds himself and igniting fast breaks. With his rebounding numbers down thus far this season, Vasquez has had fewer opportunities to run the team in transition, which is arguably when he's at his best as a distributor.
2) Vasquez is passing up shots (seriously). Though Vasquez leads the team by a wide margin in shot attempts (93, which is 17 more than the Terrapin with the next highest number of attempts), he also is passing up several open looks per contest, which is both uncharacteristic and detrimental. And the shots he is taking aren't necessarily the best of quality. For Vasquez, shooting percentage has never been a strength. That was one of the reasons he came back for his senior season -- to improve his shot consistency and, thus, impress NBA talent evaluators. Therein lies the rub. The only way he's going to break out of his shooting slump is to ... keep shooting. But, in part because he is conscious of his lagging shooting percentage -- and what that might portend down the line -- he is passing up open looks at times.
Though he was speaking about Eric Hayes at the time, Coach Gary Williams made a valid point following the game Sunday that could just as well be applied to Vasquez.
"It's hard being a scorer because you're kind of putting yourself out there," Williams said. "If you don't make shots, you look bad."
In reference to no one in particular, Williams also said, "We just have to get more out of some people, and that's what we'll be working on to try to find ways to do that."
For Maryland, one positive is that Vasquez isn't completely disengaging himself from the action as a by-product of his questionable shot selection. He's still trying to create scoring opportunities for his teammates, and he's still forcing steals on defense.
Could Vasquez being playing better? No question. Do the Terrapins need Vasquez to play better in order to reach their full potential? Absolutely. But as frustrating as it might be at times for Maryland fans to watch, the only way Vasquez is going to reemerge as the caliber of player they have come to expect him to be is by playing through his current offensive rut.
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